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Continental Signs Agreement With Pioneer to Develop an Integrated High-Performance Vehicle Cockpit

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【Summary】One of the world’s biggest automotive component suppliers Continental is teaming up with electronics company Pioneer to develop a high-performance cockpit computer that integrates all of the driver information and infotainment systems in a single unit. As part of the partnership, Pioneer will provide the entire infotainment subdomain and Continental will integrate it into a high-performance cockpit for production vehicles.

Eric Walz    May 26, 2020 12:45 PM PT
Continental Signs Agreement With Pioneer to Develop an Integrated High-Performance Vehicle Cockpit

As modern vehicles become more connected to the digital lives of drivers and passengers, automakers are creating more advanced vehicle controls, including internet-connected infotainment units that allows drivers to pay for gas right from their car. However, to run all of these services in a modern vehicle, automakers are redesigning their interfaces around a central architecture, combining vehicle controls with infotainment units, such as the center-mounted touch screen developed by electric automaker Tesla. 

Now one of the world's biggest automotive component suppliers is teaming up with electronics company Pioneer to develop a high-performance cockpit computer that integrates all of the driver information and infotainment systems in a single unit.

Pioneer Corporation and automotive supplier Continental have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to create the automotive cockpit of the future. As part of the partnership, Pioneer will provide the entire infotainment subdomain and Continental will integrate it into a high-performance cockpit for production vehicles.

Continental's high performance cockpit computer is a modular high-performance platform that is designed to be the foundation for a new user experience in the vehicles of the future. The new platform will integrate Pioneer's infotainment technology, including the software. The platform provides automakers with a higher degree of flexibility in developing advanced automotive cockpit systems. 

One of the most beneficial features is being able to integrate a cockpit system into vehicles being built around a centralized architecture, which reduces the number of individual modules and vehicle wiring. The modular cockpit also reduces software complexity, but is able to perform more function than a traditional vehicle cockpit.

Pioneer is well known for its aftermarket audio and video products for vehicles and the electronics company will provide its expertise in the field to Continental. As a major automotive component supplier to the auto industry, Continental will be providing the partnership its extensive integration of such systems into production vehicles.

"Continental has great expertise for instrument clusters and vehicle safety systems, which complements our strong car entertainment expertise gained through more than forty years of worldwide marketing experience in both OEM and aftermarket. They are both essential ingredients for a new level of human-machine interface that enables safe and intuitive operation for increasingly high functionality," said Naoto Takashima, head of Mobility Products Company at Pioneer Corporation. 

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As vehicles come packed with more and more technology, the additional number of controls and interfaces for the driver can lead to driver distraction. To help address this concern, automakers are adding such features as voice controls, allowing the driver or passengers to more safely interact with the vehicle.

Up until recently, the human-machine interface in the vehicle comprised of two separate components, the instrument cluster and the infotainment unit, which also contains the vehicle's climate controls, for example. 

The driver information is typically reserved for instrument clusters, while the center-mounted display is generally shared between the driver and front passenger. However, this architecture is no longer a viable option, according to Continental, due to the increasing interconnectivity of information, including internet-connected infotainment units such as those that offer navigation or location services.

Continental's HPC cockpit combines all displays and operating elements in a single user interface. With these modern dashboards, information can also be customized by the user. For example, vehicle gauges can be individually arranged by the user according to their personal preferences. This prevents the driver from receiving too much information, which can lead to distraction.

"The user experience plays an increasingly important role in the perception of vehicles. In particular, operating safety, pleasant design and high functionality are of paramount importance," said Dr. Frank Rabe, head of the Human Machine Interface business unit at Continental. "Our Cockpit HPC completely satisfies these requirements, including seamless integration of entire subdomains from a different source. In Pioneer, we have gained a highly competent partner that is perfect for such cooperation."

These types of advanced cockpits can benefit autonomous vehicles as well, for when the driver essentially becomes a passenger. For example, the driver can receive all the services and apps in automated driving mode that are normally found in the center-mounted infotainment display when a human is operating the vehicle. 

The benefits of using an electronic architecture is that it separates different systems and vehicle operating systems on a single piece of hardware, which can be updated over the air (OTA). However, in order to facilitate this, automakers must be able to run software from many sources on a single processor, regardless of hardware. Continental's flexible high-performance platform enables this.

The shared focus initially will be for vehicles in the Asian market.

"We believe that the Asian market in particular is highly motivated and dynamic in the field of vehicle digitalization, and we believe that we have a combination of strengths and expertise that is ideal for both parties in strategic cooperation," summarizes Rabe. "The cockpit high-performance computer provides the technical foundation for efficient collaboration, as software containers can be flexibly docked and undocked with this platform."

Continental unveiled its latest digital cockpit in Sept 2019. It allows several operating systems with various security requirements to be operated simultaneously on a single computer. It works with embedded software from QNX, Integrity, Linux and Android Automotive and other third-party providers, which in this case is Pioneer. 

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